(Photo credit: Marianne Bevis)
In a battle that pits youth against experience, former world #1 and three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray takes on the rising Australian star Alex De Minaur for a place in the Washington semifinals. Murray is playing just his third tournament of 2018 after nearly a year out with a serious hip injury, but has already shown some impressive grit. De Minaur, meanwhile, is having a breakout season and will be eager to add Murray’s scalp to his growing collection. Who will come out on top?
Unsurprisingly given Murray’s extended absence and De Minaur’s youth, this will be the first meeting between the two. In terms of experience it is equally unsurprising that Murray has a huge advantage. The Scot has 659 match wins to his name and has claimed 45 career titles. De Minaur has just 17 wins from a total of 34 matches played on Tour. He has appeared in one final so far, losing to Medvedev earlier in the season in Sydney.
Path to the quarterfinals
Murray began his Washington Open against the young American Mackenzie McDonald, a former NCAA star. Murray had to battle to advance, but rallied from a set down to win 3-6 6-4 7-5 despite squandering his first six match points. He then overcame the man who replaced him as the British #1, fourth seed Kyle Edmund, 7-6 1-6 6-4. Murray backed that up with an emotional win over Marius Copil, defeating the Romanian 6-7 6-3 7-6 in a match that did not conclude until 3 am.
De Minaur’s opener in Washington pitted him against 2014 finalist Vasek Pospisil. The Canadian made a fine start, winning the first set 7-6, but wilted in the heat thereafter. Despite the attentions of the doctor, Pospisil couldn’t turn the tide back in his favour and De Minaur won through 6-7 6-2 6-3. He then ousted 11th seed Steve Johnson 6-4 7-5 before beating eighth seed Hyeon Chung in three 6-2 4-6 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals.
How do they match up?
Murray, at his best, is almost without equal defensively. His ability to keep the ball in play has frustrated countless opponents throughout his career and is the foundation upon which his game is built. But he has added increasingly impressive offensive capabilities over the years, with his backhand particularly dangerous. But he has been struggling this week to hit his forehand with the conviction he is used to, and his second serve has been badly exposed at times.
In De Minaur he will face an opponent with impressive defensive skills of his own. Indeed, De Minaur is not entirely dissimilar from a 19-year-old Murray although he perhaps shares more with Lleyton Hewitt. His speed around the court is startling and he is unerringly consistent from the back of the court. De Minaur also looks to return aggressively, which will be a concern for Murray given how shaky he has been on serve all week.
Murray has done incredibly well to record three straight wins so soon into his comeback. But none have come easily for him, with his third round clash with Copil perhaps the most draining of them all, both physically, and based on his reaction at the match’s conclusion, emotionally. It doesn’t seem likely that he will have much left in the tank and Murray cast doubt on whether he will even take to the court. De Minaur in straight sets.